It’s not “How can I beat procrastination”, it’s why you should.
Let’s be honest here, except for a lucky few of us, none of us enjoy the work we have to do. If you don’t like it, then why do it now? This is what the part of your brain devoted to impulsiveness and desires thinks (Your id for all you Freud fans). Yet there’s a reason why you’re at a desk doing the task you hate so much, and that should be your focus. Think of the bigger picture! If you’re studying visualise yourself in the future, grateful for your better ranked degree when you’re not unemployed. If you’re at work then think about how working hard will eventually land you that promotion that finally allows you to buy that car you want. There’s a reason you need to work, a great reward in the end, you need to focus on that.
What’s more is that hard work is the key to success, if you can’t master that habit. You will lead an average life at best, and die with your dreams unfulfilled. How’s that for a motivating thought?
Now to the business of how you can beat procrastination.
“Just 10 minutes.” How many times have you groaned this out as your parents barked at you to wake up, and why? What exactly is so blissful about these 10 mins of sleep? God knows... If you had the choice to sleep 10 more minutes now as you’re still in bed. Or wake up now and later on go back to bed for as long as you liked, you would probably choose the 10 mins. Why? Because the hardest part of getting up is actually building the momentum to lift your body out of your warm cocooning bed and out into the harsh world where you should be working, but don’t. This universally understood example forms the basis of how you can tackle procrastination.
Just 10 minutes
Yep, that’s it. If you have work that needs to be done but don’t feel like it, just start doing it and nothing else. Don’t check your emails or your phone and don’t listen to music. Just do whatever you need to do, for 10 minutes only. Promise yourself that if you do work for 10 minutes, and don’t feel like carrying on, you’ll simply up and leave, guilt free.
Why this works is because just like waking up, the hardest part is overcoming the inertia of doing nothing and actually starting to do your work. Once you’ve built some momentum, it’s very likely you’ll want to continue until you’ve finished a part of your work, if not the whole thing. Mind you this only works if you devote those 10 minutes entirely to your work, If you start working and within 2 minutes you’re on BBM, checking your emails, or logged on to whatsapp.
Set a challenging timed target to yourself, one that isn’t entirely impossible, but one that makes you think “Can I really do this that fast?” and promise yourself a reward if you manage to make it during that time. Remember those things that seemed incredibly interesting simply because you need to work? Like reading that article you wanted or talking to someone. Well if you can finish on time, you can reward yourself with that guilty pleasure, guilt free.
What this needs to work is an immediate reward and a reasonable time-scale. If you promise yourself something you can have later on, then the urge for you to finish your work will be diminished. We all want instant gratification and I’m giving you carte blanche to have it, or rather earn it, and enjoy it free of guilt. As for your time-scale consider a realistic amount of time it would take you to complete your task, and then halve it (or divide it by three if you’re feeling particularly bold.) That’s your target, now go!
There’s a very fine line between prioritisation and procrastination. And the former is actually something good. If you’re avoiding a piece of work for the sake of doing something pointless, then you’re being inefficient, wasting time, and just being a general loser. On the other hand if you’ve chosen not to do something because there’s something else that’s far more important, or urgent to be done, then it’s different. You’re actually being more effective by choosing to spend the limited time you have on the things that matter most. Don’t be afraid to prioritise and don’t feel bad if you cannot complete everything in a given amount of time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and some objectives are just not achievable within a certain time-frame. When you recognise this situation devote your time to the tasks that are important first.
N.B: You can only use this to justify having not worked if there truly was something more important to do! A sudden emergency counts, really wanting to spend time watching big bang theory does not.
There you have it. You’ve now got a powerful tool to overcome your initial reluctance to get to work and another one to motivate you to work at tremendous speed! Now go forth, look that piece of work that needs to be done dead in the eyes and wrestle it until it’s finished! Or for just 10 minutes...